What if we told you that the property management sales process starts long before you make a pitch? And what if we told you that you’re already selling even before you realize that you’re doing it? This revelation is why we’ve titled today’s episode “How We Sell…” instead of “How To Sell…”.
Today on The Property Management Show, we’ve invited Todd Cohen to tell us what this means and how you can use this knowledge to change the way your team thinks about sales.
Introducing Todd Cohen
Todd Cohen is a keynote speaker and a workshop leader who is passionate beyond words about showing people how every one of us are in sales every day. He works hard to dispel the negative stereotypes that are often attached to the idea of sales. Those stereotypes hold us back professionally and personally.
Since leaving his last corporate job 12 years ago, spreading the word about sales has been Todd’s mission. Before COVID, he was doing 90 appearances a year, and he’s still delivering online speeches and workshops about his thesis that everyone, no matter who they are and what they do, is in sales.
Your Sales Process Starts Before You Say a Word
In traditional sales training, there is a nuts and bolts methodology that says the first sales call is the most important moment in the process. It leads to getting the contract signed and the product delivered. That’s a very 1990s way to think about sales.
Really, property management sales, and all sales, begin before you even say a word.
We are all consumers. We all make decisions the minute we see something or somebody. When you encounter a human, you immediately form an opinion.
Either you will feel good and you will feel like you’re in the right place, or something about the situation or the person will tell you that this isn’t the right place for you. It depends on how the person doing the selling shows up.
This is what most people miss, and it’s to the detriment of organizations.
Today, people have shorter attention spans and they’re making decisions quickly. Humans are disconnected from each other and busy with their phones and computers and moving on to the next thing. There’s a narrow window to start the sales process. Missing that window makes everything harder.
The moment you show up to a person is where the sales process starts. It’s the most important moment.
Readers form opinions. Podcast listeners make decisions. There’s an inherent bias that comes with your buying decisions, and that has to inform how you show up and how your team approaches every interaction with current and potential customers. The reality is that people make a buying decision initially and in a split second.
If you’ve read the Malcolm Gladwell book, “Blink,” you know that there’s a moment when the buyer unconsciously realizes that they need to buy something. Everyone sells in all interactions.
Sales People: Born or Bred? Trained or Talented?
Are property management sales people are born or bred? Do they fall into those roles naturally or is it a product of their experience and mentors?
Todd says yes and yes.
More important is the question of how we define sales people.
Some people chose a profession in sales. And then there’s the rest of us. Everyone has to sell themselves and make a decision about how to show up. We try to sell ourselves so people will build relationships with us. We try to influence others. Every human being does that.
Choosing sales as a profession is a little different, and it’s not for everyone. People have a sense of not wanting to be in sales because they fear rejection or they have a hard time asking for things.
There’s no such thing as rejection. It’s a myth.
Rejection is personal, and in sales it doesn’t happen that often.
Proposing to a spouse is one of the hardest sales calls in the world. So is convincing your toddler to eat peas or asking someone to move their car because you’re blocked in. All of those situations involve sales. The stereotype of selling is negative, and self-identifying sales people deal with it every day.
Words to Never Say: “I’m Just The…”
“I’m just the ____” are the three most damaging words to an organization or a career. Don’t say this to a tenant or a client or an employer. Explaining why you can’t help or be responsive because you’re just the receptionist or just the assistant is going to shut down the sales process very quickly. It sends two negative messages:
- The person asking for help should go elsewhere.
- The person responding doesn’t value themselves.
People would rather do anything than understand they’re selling.
Everything is sales, and everything influences how people think. Decide how you want to show up.
Property Management Sales Process
The Business Development Manager at your property management company is the initial point of contact and the professional who first speaks to a property owner about why they should hire your company to manage an investment.
The property manager who receives that new client once the deal is signed is also selling, and it’s very important that your property managers realize that.
Sales is a mindset.
Sales is a behavior.
When you look at sales as a mindset and a behavior, you can train people in your organization to understand that when they’re engaging with anyone, they’re selling. They don’t have to do anything differently, but they do have to think differently about what they’re doing. It will impact the next email that’s sent and the next greeting they make.
Training your people in good customer service isn’t enough. You have to make sure that every employee is looking at every interaction as meaningful. It has a systemic and profound downstream effect on a prospective client signing a deal and staying with you at renewal time. It has an impact on how that client will react when they get upset during the lease period.
Consumers make buying decisions based on interactions, and then all future sales process validate their decision.
If everyone on your property management team doesn’t embrace the notion that they’re in sales every day, and they don’t see that how they show up matters, there will be a crack in your culture, potentially a leak in your sales funnel, and someone will send a message that tells a customer they’re in the wrong place. That’s the essence of your sales culture. It takes a lot of courage to think differently about each interaction.
Not every company is up to it.
You don’t have to change the processes or the manuals; you have to change the mindset. Then, the actions will follow.
Recovering from the COVID Climate: All Hands on Deck
When you’re thinking about how to strengthen your property management sales process post-COVID, the message to adopt is that everyone’s in sales. You need all hands on deck if you want to recover and move forward. Todd believes this has never meant more than it does now.
People are terrified from the economic fallout of this pandemic. They’re worried they may have overextended themselves on their lease. Companies aren’t sure if they have the right people in place. You can’t miss a single opportunity. The profound mindset shift is not optional; it’s more important than ever.
Having the right people will make a difference in your organization. One of the critical points Todd makes in his keynotes and presentations is that it no longer matters what you charge or what your services are or how efficiently you deliver those services. People are looking for the difference maker.
When you’re looking to hire a new team member, ask this question during the interview:
Tell me about something that you’ve sold in your life.
If they can’t tell you that they’ve influenced someone to achieve a goal, then this is not someone you want to hire. They should at least be able to recognize that they are selling themselves in that moment, at the interview.
Everyone is in sales. It’s a mindset, and it’s mandatory. It’s also a critical cultural shift for your company’s recovery post-COVID. It doesn’t cost anything to change your team’s mindset. It simply requires your time to point out to people that what they do matters.
Looking at Everything through a Sales Lens
People can feel you smiling when you answer the phone. You’re selling just by doing the things you do every day. It’s about taking the time to appear the right way and send the right message.
Getting your people on board with this type of thinking is the secret sauce of Todd’s workshops and keynotes. He says you can’t make it a gigantic mountain to scale. It can be as simple as pointing out examples of how what people do every day is essentially sales.
Consider the HR person who has a property manager come to the office and ask to hire a new landscaping contractor.
When the HR person writes a better job description and gets the right person hired faster, that sales function quickly makes its way down the road through the company. It led to better candidates and quicker decisions, which will later lead to better marketing and tenant placements because when prospects come to the building and see a well-landscaped community, they want to live there.
By hiring a landscaper, the HR person did not think they were selling anything. But, it was part of the sales process. It’s big thinking and it’s a huge concept.
You don’t have to provide sales training. You don’t have to teach your employees how to sell.
Instead, you have to show them how what they’re doing right now is sales. They’re already doing it.
Everyone’s in Sales – So Every Team Member Matters
No one wakes up in the morning saying they’re proud to be overhead. No one wants to feel like they don’t matter at their job. When you can show people that the things they do every day leads to revenue coming in the doors, they’ll see themselves as part of the sales team. People want to make a difference.
Encourage your staff to create relationships. Make your team members feel like advocates.
Todd had an experience living in a planned community where he owned a home and had a great experience with the maintenance staff there. The maintenance chief greeted him by name every time they spoke, and this is a sales tool. Using a person’s name demonstrates for one second that the person you’re addressing is important. It creates buying decisions.
The maintenance chief in this community was responsive when he didn’t need to be. Todd’s water heater exploded and he couldn’t find a plumber. Within five minutes, the maintenance person was at the door with a bucket and a mop. It was a priority. If Todd had told this person that he was a great sales person, the maintenance chief would have argued that he wasn’t in sales – he was just the maintenance chief. But, he’s actually in sales too because he influenced Todd’s behavior and reinforced that he made a good decision by buying a home in the community.
Typically, when anyone thinks about the property management sales process, it looks like a straight line. It starts and ends. But, with a recurring revenue businesses, you’re making a sale every month that someone pays. That buying decision has to be reinforced over and over again.
How Approachability Affects Sales
Todd suggests looking at the Boeing Company because this sales mindset applies to small companies and large corporations. When all those plane crashes were occurring and Boeing was called to Congress, the company did not do itself any favors. The CEO showed up and did a terrible job. He missed the opportunity to sell his company. People were holding up signs saying their kids were killed in plane crashes. There was a lot of hurt and anger. At that point, Boeing should have begun with vulnerability and humility and humanity. Those are all sales tools available to everyone, regardless of the industry.
If you’re approachable then you’re profitable.
Showing humanity now is especially important. There’s a lot of chaos, and people aren’t at their best.
The lesson Todd says we’re learning with COVID is that there’s a recovery mindset, which is actually the same as the sales mindset. First and foremost, you have to shut up and listen. People want to share their pain, and it’s a good way to build a relationship. It’s also a selling tool. No one wants to hear push back. People need you to understand where they are and how they feel. Those who understand that will do a great job with sales.
Listening is something so many people just don’t value. But the first thing you should do as part of any process is listen. Listen to the people talking to you.
Todd shared that between March 19 and March 23, he lost 80 percent of his business. All his events were canceled and the work just evaporated. He had a choice. Todd could have been difficult with the people who had booked him. He could have insisted on collecting cancelation fees and anything else that was in the contract, or he could have been a jerk, but it’s not to anyone’s benefit to be a jerk.
The first thing he said to the people who called him was that he was sorry. He was sorry for what they were going through, and he knew it must have been a difficult call for them to make. This created longer and deeper conversations that were more meaningful.
Todd knows that most of this business at some point will come back. He also knows that customers aren’t going to like you if they feel your desperation. It scares people off.
The Takeaways for Property Managers
The main takeaway that property managers and their teams can gain from this podcast is:
Never waste an interaction.
Everyone is in sales. Not because we’re knocking on doors and selling products and services. Adopt the mindset that every interaction leaves a mark. It leads people towards buying your property management services or renting a home from you.
This is a huge topic, and if you’d like to learn more about Todd and his workshops, check out his two books: “Everyone’s In Sales” and “Stop Apologizing and Start Selling.” You can also visit his website at toddcohen.com.
You can always contact us at Fourandhalf as well. Thanks for joining us.
The Property Management Show is brought to you by Fourandhalf. We help property managers strategize and implement marketing plans that bring in owner leads. Get a free marketing assessment to find out how to start getting better clients into your portfolio.